HC Deb 11 September 1893 vol 17 cc930-5

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1.

SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)

said, that he understood the Bill was not to be discussed. He objected to, the whole Bill, but would not oppose it being carried through this stage. If, however, the provisions were to be modified, then it would be his duty to oppose every Motion having that object in view.

MR. NAOROJI (Finsbury, Central)

said, that when Lord Kimberley proposed the Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Lords he gave his reasons for submitting that the Commanding Officer should not continue to be a Member of the Executive Council, and also stated that all his Civil and Military advisers were of that view. But that Lord Cross opposed him, on the ground that the Government of India was in favour of continuing the Membership. In the Committee of the House of Lords, Lord Kimberley again tried to press his view against the continuance of the Membership, and also urged that higher salary would have to be paid to the Commanding Officer if continued in the Council; but the House of Lords carried an Amendment proposed by Lord Cross. But since then the position had been very much changed. The Indian Government had deliberately decided in favour of discontinuing the Membership, and as the Secretary of State for India had not changed his view he thought Parliament should agree to the change, which the Indian Government desired, and which would also be a pecuniary relief. If that were refused, he thought it would be an unfortunate occurrence. He hoped that under the changed circumstances the Amendment would be accepted, and that the House of Lords would be induced to reconsider its decision.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 27, to leave out the word "continue," in order to insert the word "cease."—(Mr. Naoroji.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'continue' stand part of the Clause."


I regret that I cannot accede to the suggestion of my hon. Friend. He is right in thinking that the Secretary of State for India, when he moved the Bill in another place, was favourable to the alteration which the hon. Member proposes, and it is equally true that after some changes the Government of India has come round to my noble Friend's opinion. We are quite aware of the responsibility we are incurring in running counter to the views of the Government of India. As to the point of expense, my hon. Friend is probably a little premature in his anticipation. Of course, it is true that if the Commanders of the Forces in Madras and Bombay were relieved of their seats on the Executive Councils, it might be possible to reduce their salaries; but it does not follow that such a decrease would of necessity take place.


The noble Lord said so in the other House. I read his words.


That was an obiter dictum of my noble Friend, and the mere fact that he said it does not render it necessary that the reduction of salary should take place. Bearing in mind that there is a strong concurrence of authorities in another place in favour of the Commanders of the Forces retaining their seats in the Council—remembering that men so well versed in Indian affairs as Lords Northbrook and Cross hold that view, and regarding also, as we do, the main object of this Bill as of great importance—we are not willing to run not merely the risk, but the absolute certainty, of losing this Bill. I understand that the House of Lords have decided not to take any further contentious business during the remainder of their Sittings, and, therefore, the Bill would have to be hung over till late in the year if we agree to this Amendment. Under these circumstances, I regret I cannot accede to the wish of my hon. Friend, as I have been so desirous of doing on previous occasions.


said, he desired to express his entire concurrence with the statement of the Under Secretary of State for India with regard to the Amendment which had been inserted in the Bill in another place. Of course, he was personally opposed to the Bill altogether; but if they were to have the Bill at all, he was anxious that this subsection should stand part of it, because the mischievous effect upon the Army, and of the Native Army in particular, which would result from the Bill would be pro tanto mitigated by the retention of the sub-section. Experience had shown that there should be a separate Army for each Presidency. That had been admitted by the Indian Government and by Her Majesty's Government. The separation of the Armies was, to some extent, impaired by the Bill; but that, again, was mitigated by the retention of the subsection, because there would be some connection between the Presidency's Government and the Presidency's Army. The separation of the Armies was good for the native soldiers, especially as it secured their needs and requirements being attended to, as they were by race, by nationality, by language entirely distinct from the Bengal Army. Again, the result of the Commander-in-Chief sitting on the Council would diminish somewhat the excessive centralisation. He believed that the great administrative danger which threatened that Empire was excessive centralisation at Calcutta and Simla.

SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)

said, he was sorry that the Under Secretary of State for India had not been able to accept the Amendment before the Committee. He had been for many years Secretary to the Government of Bombay. He knew the inner working of the present system, and could say that if the Commander-in-Chief was made a Member of the Executive Council, it would not tend either to military discipline or to the good civil administration of the Presidency. The Bombay Board of Government consisted now of the Governor, the Commander-in-Chief, and of two Civil Members of the Council. Therefore, whenever the Commander-in-Chief voted for the Governor, that enabled the Governor to use his casting vote in the Council, and he could carry anything he liked with the help of the Commander-in-Chief as against the Civil Members of the Government. As a matter of fact, the Commander-in-Chief did not take a large share in ordinary civil affairs. He would only attend the Council to oblige the Governor, and, having obliged the Governor, he would expect the Governor to help him in any contest he might have with the Commander-in-Chief of India, and might thereby be able to counteract the policy established at Calcutta. Extra cost would be involved if the Commander-in-Chief was appointed to the Council, and the result would be mischief, instead of benefit. He, therefore, had great pleasure in supporting the Amendment.

MR. EGERTON ALLEN (Pembroke, &c.)

said, the Under Secretary of State for India had said he did not wish to run counter to the Government of India, but he was obliged to do so in order to satisfy another place. But the right hon. Gentleman, in refusing to accept the Amendment, was not only running counter to the Government of India, but to the Secretary of State for India. It was the Secretary of State for India who had originated the idea of excluding the Commanders of the Forces in Madras and Bombay from the Council of the Governor. He telegraphed to the Viceroy, 21st March— Presidential Commands. Opinion here is adverse to retention as Members of Council of the Commanders of the Forces in Madras and Bombay; and unless you object, a clause excluding them will be introduced into the Bill. To which the Viceroy replied— Madras and Bombay Commands. We have no objection to the proposals in your telegram of the 21st. And it was this excluding clause which had been struck out of the Bill by the Lords, and which the hon. Member for Central Finsbury now endeavoured to introduce into the Bill again. On the 11th July, after the amendment of the clause made by the Lords, the Viceroy in Council wrote— We had, as we have reminded your Lordship in paragraph 2 of this Despatch, on a former occasion stated that we saw no reason why the successors of the then Commanders-in-Chief should not be members of the Local Councils. Rut a further examination of the question led us to doubt the correctness of this conclusion, and the Viceroy's telegram of the 24th March was accordingly addressed to your Lordship. We now desire to express our deliberate adherence to the view indicated in that telegram; and, although we attach so much importance to the early passing of the Bill now before Parliament that we should not be disposed to raise any points which might diminish its chance of becoming law, we have no hesitation in saying that we prefer, for the reasons stated above, the original draft of section 1 (3) to the section as altered by the Amendment introduced in the House of Lords. There was no doubt that the best opinion was altogether in favour of the clause as it stood before amendment by the Lords, and the only reason for not following that opinion was because the House of Lords would not pass the Bill if their Amendment were disagreed with. If the Commons were to give way to a threat of that sort they might as well give up attempting legislation at all, because all the Lords would have to say in order to defeat a Bill was that they would not allow the Amendments of the Commons to pass. The question really was, whether the Amendment, which was supported by the weight of opinion, should be accepted, or rejected, because of a threat of the Lords?


The Debate has become very contentious. I therefore beg to move, Mr. Mellor, that you report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir R. Temple.)


I have no objection to the Motion of the hon. Baronet. I did not think this contention would arise.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 57; Noes 37.—(Division List, No. 303.)

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.